April 9, 2019 – Representatives of ICANSERVE Foundation from Baguio, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Tagum, and Manila formed part of the nearly 1,000 strong-audience at the first National Congress of Cancer Patients and Survivors at the AFP Theater in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on April 8, 2019.
Dubbed “Stronger Together,” the congress was organized by Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCPh), the prime civil society movers behind Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) which was signed into law on February 14, 2019.
The historic event brought together cancer patients, survivors, and advocates from dozens of groups from across the country, as well as representatives from the government and private healthcare sector, to discuss the impact that NICCA, as well as the Universal Health Care Act (UHC), will have on the cancer community. It served as a venue to share knowledge and collaborate, and engage the community, encouraging patient groups to unite and let their voices be heard.
“More work needs to be done to protect the rights of cancer patients and their families, and to ensure that NICCA is fully implemented and stays relevant and responsive,” said ICANSERVE Founding President Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala and CCPh Vice President of Internal Affairs.
Addressing the audience on behalf of CCPh, its president Paul Perez gave credit to legislators who sponsored and pushed NICCA forward: Senators JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara, Risa Hontiveros, and Nancy Binay, and Cong. Helen Tan, Bernadette Herrera, Chiqui Roa-Puno, Alfred Vargas, and Carlo Nograles.
Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD, a recent lung cancer survivor, delivered an inspiring message, calling on his fellow warriors to stay “happy, healthy, and holy” as they “focus on the humor, not the tumor.” The audience was treated to moving performances by a volunteer violinist, Project Brave Kids, and Carewell Community. Singers Cris Villonco and Ice Seguerra shared their personal stories of how cancer has touched their own families. Mae Paner served as host, while journalists Mitzi Borromeo and Ces Oreña-Drilon served as moderators for the panel discussions.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III conveyed a message of support to the cancer patient community and recognized the contributions of CCPh to the landmark health care laws.
The first segment of the Congress, “Stronger Together through Shared Knowledge” was a discussion on the key points of the NICCA and UHC. Moderated by CCPh’s Menchie Auste and Dr. Rachael Rosario, the panelists included Dr. Clarito Cairo, DOH Cancer Program Manager; Dr. Marvin Galvez, OIC of PhilHealth’s Benefits Development and Research Department; Dr. Soledad Antonio, Division Chief, DOH Legislative Liaison Division; Dr. Ramy Roxas, Philippine College of Surgeons Cancer Commission; and Dr. Trixie Tiangco, Cancer Center Head, The Medical City.
“Stronger Together through Collaboration” served as a venue to discuss the current programs patients can avail of from DOH, PhilHealth, DSWD, PCSO, and LGUs. Joining moderators Magsanoc-Alikpala and Borromeo were Dr. Cairo, Dr. Galvez, Dr. Claire Soliman, Philippine Society of Medical Oncology and CCPh; Marilyn Cipriano, Taguig City Patient Navigator; Arlyn Peliño, Project Development Officer, DSWD Crisis Intervention Program; and Dr. Trin Ramos, PCSO.
And lastly, in “Stronger Together through Vigilant Action,” moderated by Oreña-Drilon, Auste and Perez discussed ways in which cancer patients can become a stronger voice in shaping policy and programs. They expressed their optimism in the institutionalization of patient voices as NICCA mandates that cancer-focused patient support organizations should be granted three seats on the National Integrated Cancer Control Council.
In a show of solidarity, representatives from each patient group were called on stage to lead everyone in the reading of the pledge and call to action to unite against cancer.
Congress attendees were encouraged to participate and ask questions, as CCPh gathers feedback for the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of NICCA and UHC. Among the concerns raised were the PWD status of cancer patients and access to financial assistance for treatments.
The IRRs for both NICCA and UHC are currently in process and are expected to be finalized in May and August, respectively. –story by Giselle Arroyo; photos by Boy Cabrido and Giselle Arroyo